Reviewers, retailers, wholesalers, rights buyers, and all the other gatekeepers who can help you get books to readers in their particular territories don’t necessarily want information in the same way, or even the same words.
As you prepare the marketing and PR materials for any book, it’s important to keep different needs, uses, preferences, and quirks firmly in mind.
Here are some broad guidelines and some specific tips for developing and tailoring promotional materials that will appeal to each important part of your market.
Trade Catalog Copy
Decision-makers who can choose to stock your title for sale to their customers/outlets–book wholesalers, bookstore and online buyers, specialty catalogers, gift trade buyers, club buyers, other rights buyers.
When: 6 to 10 months ahead of pub date.
What questions to answer: Why this book and this author? What problem does the book solve? What distinguishes this treatment of the topic? What’s the hook?
What basics to cover: Show the cover and include all book specifications–ISBN, publication date, price, trim size, number of pages, number of illustrations–plus marketing, publicity, and promotion plans for the book.
Tip: Don’t use “you” in this copy. You aren’t speaking to your book’s end user.
Sales Kits/ Title Tip Sheets
The sales force, independent sales reps, distributors.
When: In plenty of time for the sales meetings that start each selling season–often November for the Spring-Summer list and April for the Fall-Winter list.
What questions to answer:
What is the relevant trend? How big is the potential market? What are the sales hooks for the author, the topic, or this particular treatment?
What basics to cover: As for the trade catalog, include all book specifications and promo plans. Also highlight any local markets you are targeting.
Tip: Support your case with relevant statistics (market size, growing trend lines; author’s fame, national visibility, or speaking engagements) and keep it short.
Consumer or Professional Catalog /Flyer
For whom: Aficionados, experts and associations focused on the topic; your house list; key publisher contacts and the author’s relevant contacts.
When: For the first time, 2 to 3 months before printing to generate prepublication orders and enthusiasm from those already interested in the topic; resend once the book is available, then again 4 to 6 months after that.
What questions to answer: Why and how will this book add to experts’ knowledge or expand their consideration of the topic? What’s new and unique?
What basics to cover: All book specs as above, and special marketing/PR for this audience.
Tip: For this key core audience, do use “you,” and focus on the special connection between them and the book and author.
Galley or Page Proof Cover Sheet
For whom: Long-lead-time print review media, including publishing and library trade review publications and academic, professional, and consumer periodicals with book reviewers.
When: 3 to 4 months ahead of publication date.
What questions to answer: How does this book relate to a trend or answer a need in a new way? What expertise does the author have? Why is this work a valuable addition to the information sources already available in this area?
What basics to cover: All book specifications plus marketing, publicity, and promotion plans for the book, including speaking or media tours, and local markets where the book will get an additional push.
Tip: The key to having a shot at reviews in long-lead-time publications is getting your prepublication materials to them within their specified time frame, even if the packaging isn’t as glitzy as it will be for the final book promotion.
For whom: Readers and browsers at outlets where your book is available–bookstores, gift stores, clubs, libraries, etc.
When: 1 to 2 months before printing
What questions to answer: What will this book do for you, the end user? What are the benefits for readers/users? Who recommends this book?
What basics to cover:
Price, ISBN, publisher imprint, categories for shelving (e.g., Business/Investments).
Tip: Speak directly to your audience, communicating as clearly and engagingly as possible why this book is a must-have. Use endorsements from people or institutions that will be meaningful to your target market(s).
New Book Release
For whom: Various media–print, online, possibly radio and TV–especially those that specialize in the book’s and/or author’s subject areas, and including both trade and professional journals in the author’s areas of expertise.
When: 4 to 6 weeks before the official publication date.
What questions to answer: What is the news angle? Why will readers/listeners/viewers care about this subject? What makes the author an expert on it?
What basics to cover: Phone and email for the person the media can contact for more information; news or statistics hook; brief author bio, publication date, price.
Tip: Make it easy for them to request a review copy.
For whom: Print media, especially newspapers, as well as magazines, Web sites, e-zines, even radio programs, that reach consumers.
When: Plan ahead through an entire calendar year to capture all seasonal opportunities that tie into your book’s subject matter and your author’s expertise, and create a separate release for each. Pay attention to breaking news stories that provide openings for your author as an informational resource.
What questions to answer: Do these media contacts need a timely, easy-to-use story? A resource? An expert on this particular subject? What parts of the book would make an engaging feature (a quiz, 5 tips, etc.)? Excerpts themselves can also be great feature releases, with a bonus–it’s easy for media to pick them up and run them.
What basics to cover: Phone and email contact information; where and how to get a review copy.
Tip: Be aware of seasonal news pegs as you develop the project (tax time, grilling season, Halloween, Father’s Day) and stay alert to news stories that relate to content in the book.
And whatever the season, always remember that tailoring your materials to meet the needs of particular recipients helps position your projects for success.
Bobbye Middendorf, who has been in the publishing industry for 23 years, is an award-winning writer published in Hope, Conscious Choice, and the PMA Newsletter, among other periodicals. Her independent writing practice is dedicated to creating marketing stories for books, authors, and entrepreneurs in brochures, newsletters, and press materials as well as catalog, jacket, and Web site copy. To learn more, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.